Football

What ‘above the line’ means for Geoff Collins, Georgia Tech’s depth chart this season

Yellow Jackets quarterbacks excited about new offense

Georgia Tech quarterbacks James Graham (14) and Lucas Johnson (7) talk to the media after the Yellow Jackets spring game April 26.
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Georgia Tech quarterbacks James Graham (14) and Lucas Johnson (7) talk to the media after the Yellow Jackets spring game April 26.

Don’t expect to take a quick look at the Georgia Tech roster and see who’s going to be the field. The Yellow Jackets won’t have a typical depth chart this season.

First-year coach Geoff Collins, never one to lean on convention, is introducing a new way to define who receives playing time this fall. It’s called being “above the line.” He used it the last two seasons when he was head coach at Temple and he’s bringing to The Flats.

Collins believes having a first team and a second team is detrimental to the development of the team. Anyone who is “above the line” is good enough to play in the game. The staff gives bonus points to those who can play multiple positions and there are additional considerations for those who excel on special teams.

Collins said he first realized the folly of the two-deep roster when he was an assistant coach at Western Carolina. Their best player, a safety, was injured in a game and couldn’t return to the field. The second-string player on the depth chart had to enter the game, even though there were a half-dozen better defensive backs on the roster. They just had not been trained to play the position. Collins isn’t going to let that happen again.

Those who fall short — or end up “below the line” — are addressed by the coaches and given the reasons each week. They are told what they need to do — improvements, adjustments, nuances — to get on the field. This is especially important for road games, where the traveling party is limited to 72 players.

“Everything is about development,” Collins said. “That’s why we don’t have a scout team, we have a developmental team.”

Last week the team even spent a day practicing at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Collins wanted his team to get a feel for the place since the Yellow Jackets will be playing a game there, starting in 2020, for five seasons. He also wanted the seniors to have a taste of the big facility since they won’t have the opportunity to play there.

No. 2 for Carpenter

When Collins was hired, safety Tariq Carpenter, a junior from Long County, wrote the coach a letter to explain why he wanted to change numbers. Carpenter’s desire was to move from No. 29 to a single-digit number. Last week his request was granted, but not before fulfilling some qualifications.

The single-digit numbers are coveted in the new Georgia Tech culture and awarded to players to meet high standards, both on and off the field. Carpenter met those demands.

“Tariq had a 3.0 GPA this summer, he is one of the hardest workers and one of the most unselfish humans in the program,” Collins said. “He is a great teammate and a great leader. When you can reward someone like that, it’s important to do it.”

There have been 37 number changes since Collins became coach.

Sophomore Juanyeh Thomas, Carpenter’s partner at safety, moved from No. 28 to No. 1. Jalen Camp, a senior wide receiver, moved from No. 80 and is also listed as No. 1.

Preseason camp leftovers

The kicking competition has been keen, with Wesley Wells and Brenton King going head-to-head for the starting job. Wells took the spot away from King a year ago at Louisville and didn’t miss a kick all year. King, a junior, made three field goals — 21, 26 and 49 yards — in the final scrimmage of the summer. Wells, a sophomore, made one from 26.

Quarterbacks Lucas Johnson and Tobias Oliver of Warner Robins continue to make plays and battle for time as starter. Johnson ran for a long touchdown and Oliver ran for a score in the scrimmage.

Highly touted freshman running back Jamious Griffin could be a factor right off the bat. He scored two times in the scrimmage.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article listed the wrong school where Geoff Collins served as assistant coach. He worked at Western Carolina University.

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